Great Wolf Lodge Adds Day Pass Option

by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, staff writer

The Great Wolf Lodge chain of indoor water park resorts announced last month that several locations, including its Southern California property just a few miles from the Disneyland Resort, now offer a day pass that grants you access to the indoor water park without requiring an overnight hotel stay. Prior to this change, day passes were only available to people with Great Wolf Lodge reservations who wanted to add extra people to their party.

On its website, Great Wolf Lodge says day passes start at $50 per person, per day, with prices as high as $100 on peak dates. The park sells only a limited number of day passes each day, based on hotel occupancy, and passes must be purchased 24 hours in advance. As of press time, passes were available for purchase only through August 30, 2019.

Not only are the Great Wolf Lodge day passes more expensive than one-day admission to Knott's Soak City water park in Buena Park (currently $43-$53 per person), the pass-only option can be more expensive than just booking a hotel room at the lodge, especially for larger families.

Our example looks at the cost for two parties: One family of four, and a second family of six. The cost of booking a standard family suite for July 8, 2019, was $364.43, which includes all resort fees and taxes. Day passes for the same date are $90 per person. For the family of four, the day passes cost $360, just $5 cheaper than staying at the lodge. The price differs dramatically for the family of six, though, with day passes costing a whopping $540, compared to $365 for the same hotel suite.

We also compared prices for a date where day passes are $55 per person. The cost of booking a standard family suite for August 28, 2019, was $248.67, including all resort fees and taxes. For the family of four, the day passes cost $220, $25 cheaper than staying at the lodge. For the family of six, with day passes costing $330, the hotel room is much better value.

Beyond having a place to rest or sleep, another major benefit to booking a room is that you actually get access to the water park on two days, not just one. Hotel guests have access to the water park from 1:00 p.m. until water park closing on the day they check in. On check-out day, guests have access to the water park from opening to closing. For locals who can play for two days, an overnight stay with two days of water park access is a much better value than day passes.

The day pass may be a good idea for folks who are already staying at an area hotel and luck into one of the $50 days, but if you're planning your Disneyland vacation from scratch and considering a visit to the Great Wolf Lodge during your trip, a split-stay may be more affordable in the end. We think the day pass promotion is likely just intended to drive traffic to the Great Wolf Lodge website, where visitors can compare options and realize that a stay isn't as expensive as they may have expected.

MousePlanet contributor Lisa Maulhardt wrote about her stay at the Great Wolf Lodge shortly after it opened in 2016. I have had the opportunity to stay at the resort twice since her review, and my experience mirrors hers in many aspects. I personally found the indoor water park to be too warm and stuffy, as the air is kept at a constant 84 degrees—but you'll appreciate the warm air after spending time in the water. I want to reiterate that families with children under 48 inches tall should pay particular attention to the height restrictions, as shorter children are limited in what they can do at the water park.

Another change since Lisa's visit—parking is no longer included in the resort fee, and is an additional $20 per car, per night. This fee also applies to parking when you visit as a day guest.